Venezuela is an incredible country from the landscaping point of view, from the snows from the Andes to the Caribbean coast, from legendary rainforest and amazonian forests, to the rich flora and fauna (faone), dominated by unique mountains with vertical walls and flat tops denominated tepuis (kind of mountain) and lonely landscapes of the Gran Sabana.
You can practice adventure sports or relax. One can visit indigenous colonial cities and villages that conserve old customs. We also found great shopping malls and centers with all the world-wide trademarks in Caracas.
Venezuela is famous by its wealth of natural resources but, surprisingly, these do not seem to be enjoyed by the Venzuelans at least this has been our impression. Hugo Chávez, the country's famous and charismatic leader can be seen and heard on televising regularly and seems very convincing but when one speaks with the local people such as the drivers of "por puestos", with taxi drivers, waiters, posada owners, a doctor of Caracas, several people of medium-high class of Caracas, we must say that we did not find absolutely anybody favorable to Chávez; It was all "displeasure". Curious.
Summarizing we think that Venezuela still has far to go to advance in its tourism offer, but is a very recommendable country to visit. Here you can find anything you could wish for and more!
From July 28th to August 22nd 2006.
Day 1: Barcelona - Madrid - Caracas - ...
Day 2: ... - Coro - Maracaibo - ...
Day 3: ... - Mérida
Day 4: Mérida - ...
Day 5: ... - Valencia - Ciudad Bolívar
Day 6: Ciudad Bolívar
Day 7: Ciudad Bolívar - La Paragua- Canaima
Day 8: Campamento Salto del Ángel
Day 9: Camp. Salto del Ángel - Canaima - C. Bolívar
Day 10: Ciudad Bolívar - Tucupita
Day 11: Tucupita- Delta del Orinoco
Day 12: Delta del Orinoco - Tucupita - Río Caribe
Days 13-14: Río Caribe
Day 15: Río Caribe - Mochima
Day 16: Mochima - Cumaná
Day 17: Cumaná - ...
Day 18: ... - Caracas - Los Roques
Days 19-21: Los Roques
Day 22: Los Roques - Caracas
Day 23: Caracas - ...
Day 24: ... - Madrid - Barcelona
We chose to go from west to east of the country, going anti-clockwise, starting in Coro and finishing in Los Roques to be able to rest a little. We decided to go to Coro because we like the colonial cities, but if you only have a few days you could quit Coro, particularly if you have seen other colonial cities. It is not the most spectacular one than we have seen. It's cute but only include it if you have sufficient journey time.
Ciudad Bolívar peculiarly it is not within the cities that the guide Lonely Planet emphasizes as being beautiful or worth visiting. To us Ciudad Bolivar was very nice and charming and also we much liked the cities of Río Caribe and Mérida.
The option to go to the Roques is a very expensive one, but they are the typical Caribbean islands where we fancy getting lost for some days. You must know that when you go to Los Roques, you always depend on the "peñeros" (boat men) , the guys that get around the islands and from island to island.
We did not go to Isla Margarita, because we think (we know) that the beaches are not spectacular and that the island is operated with resorts geared for mass tourism. All this was told us by a friend who worked in a resort there during two years. It's also a Duty Free island.
We remained with the desire to do one of the trips to Los Llanos, also the trip to the Caura River and to the Gran Sabana, but we would have needed 16 days more vacation to be able to do them because each one of the trips is around 5 days.
In Venezuela we changed our money in banks, in the different travel agencies that offer touristic services, and the agencies that organize trips or even in "posadas". At Caracas airport we changed 300 US$ and the bank kept 6% comisión for State Taxes and a Bank Commission (we "gave" 37 US$ to Hugo Chávez and company in total). The official change is 2.100 Bs per dollar, and 2.500 Bs per Euro.
In agencies or "posadas" the exchange rate is much better since they do not take commission, so that overall the rate of exchange is much more favourable. Also there is the possibility to change money in the street, but we felt too inexpereinced or simply lacked the trust so we did not try this and therefore cannot explain if changing in the street works or not.
Credit cards are accepted everywhere and at all the hotels, but they charge between 3% and 5% of commission.
Medium change (in travel agencies):
1 € = 2.700 Bs
1 US$ = 2.400 Bs
+ 850 € (flight BCN-Venezuela-BCN)
+ 410 € (flight and stay of 5 days- 4 nights at los Roques)
+ 150 € (transportation: buses, por puestos and taxis)
+ 210 € (hotels)
+ 120 € (Restaurants, juices and supermarkets)
+ 28 € (souvenirs & others)
+ 45 € (trips and entrance fees)
= 1.813 € (Total)
Average daily budget: 27 €/day, flights aside.
It is compulsory to have and show a valid passport and to keep the Immigration entrance card until the end of the travel because it will be requested at the airport customs. A visa is only necessary if you want to stay in Venezuela more than 90 days.
It is not necessary to be vaccinated to enter Venezuela, but if you want to go to the Rainforest it's advisable to be vaccinated and to take pills to prevent Malaria. The recommended vaccines are for Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Meningitis and to be up to date on vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus.
You need to be vaccinated at least one month before beginning the travel, and the tablets of the malaria must also be taken 1 week before the trip and for the full 6 weeks. To get the vaccine you must go to the centres qualified by the department of health of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Tel. 93-443 05 07). The vaccines and consultation cost around 30€. We recommended asking for an appointment, a minimum of 3-4 months in advance, because as the number of travellers to exotic destinations is growing, you may not otherwise get your preferred time.
Curiously in Venezuela, we saw some places that they obliged us to have a tetanus vaccine, for instance in the bus station of San Félix. As we had with us the vaccine card that we were given at the consultation of the Catalan Government, it was no problem and we did not have to have another vaccination.
Venezuela is a South American country unfortunately well-known for its high crime rate, and all the Venezuelans we met - even before travelling or at the airport -advised us to be very careful especially in Caracas, as beside the robberies, thieves carry guns and are dangerous. They have been known to shoot if you do not immediately give them your valuables. We therefore chose not to stay in Caracas so we have no personal experience but people we met in other cities who had stayed in Caracas, said it was fully ok. In the other cities and villages around Venezuela we felt safe, but we always stayed around the posada at night.
I must say that when it went dark, there was almost nobody in the streets and it was strange to see the streets empty or with only a couple of tourists around at 8 pm. We remained close to the posada when it was darker. Robberies happen, but if you take care of your valuables, nothing should happen. Of course it's advisable to travel without jewelry or without flaunting our wealth.
Our experience was fully positive, however it is obviously advisable to take the same sort of precautions one would normally take in an unknown city or as for usually travelling around (or even walking in Barcelona), in crowded places and at night and dark places.
Although distances in Venezuela are not huge, when you use public transport, they do seem to be longer than they actually are. Taxis or buses do not drive over 70/80 km per hour and what could be done pretty fast, takes longer, sometimes by many hours.
Generally, the road infrastucture is not good though generally better in the North, around Caracas, regional roads are poor with many pot holes. I think it is strange that the roads are not better as the Venezuelan economy and wealth is predicated upon the production of oil and gas.
Airplane. We took 2 internal flights and both were small light aircraft. It's a good option to move around the country but it's not cheap.
• Avior Airlines - Rutaca Airlines - Aeropostal - Santa Bárbara Airlines - Aeroejecutivos -
• Aserca Airlines - Transaven Airlines - Laser Airlines - Solar Airways - Aerotuy - Conviasa
Bus. The inter-urban buses are a good and cheap option for moving around the country. The different companies operating between the cities, have similar prices, and this means that before deciding which company we travel with, we must check which kind of bus they offer. We would strongly emphasise one negative aspect:- the polar cold that you find in the buses. We had to buy a big blanket so as to be able to survive on the different night routes we did.
All the travellers had blankets and winter clothes even if outside it was 35 degrees, the Venezuelans were ready for the cold. We asked many times the drivers to switch off the air conditioning and they always said that it was fixed, that they knew of the problem but they could not change it, so if you must take the night bus, be aware that inside you will find 17-19 degrees.
Also the "bus cama", bed-bus that we travelled on, is not as in other South American countries, which have "real beds", but only offer confortable seats. Strangely in some buses they take pictures of passengers holding their passports. When I asked why, they told me this was for for security reasons,and in the case of accidents. To buy a bus ticket, a passport is required (or Venezuelan ID). They really check: As an anecdote, once we did not go to the counter ourselves but we gave our passport numbers to our friend to buy our bus tickets, but she could not make it, as we did not give her our dates of birth which is also necessary.
LThe biggest bus companies, have their own termini, called "terminal privada", which usually are in front or very close of the main terminal. These private terminals are modern, cleaner and with a sense of higher security. There are a lot of bus companies, some with curious names, but the most important and with private bus terminals are:
• Aeroexpresos Ejecutivos - Expresos Occidente - Rodovías de Venezuela - Expresos Flamingos.
Por puesto. This is another good option between the cities in Venezuela, to take a "carrito" (=car), that is an old car for 6 people (driver + 5 people) that make fixed routes between cities with a higher price than the buses but faster. They do not leave until the car is full. The cars are really old, literally ramshackle, old American Dodge or Chevrolets from the 80's and you always think they will break down.
Train. There is no passenger train service, only goods transportation.
Car. The car rental seems to be good as petrol is incredibly cheap for European pockets, one litre benzine costs 97 Bs and one of gasoil 73 Bs. To rent a car costs around 60 € per day.
Taxi. Taxis in Venezuela are cheap, they work without taximeter. Within the cities they usually cost between 3.000Bs and 6.000Bs per trip. In Caracas fares are around double this. It is better to agree the price for the trip before entering the cab,you can bargain and they will make it cheaper. If it is later than 8pm, the price is more expensive, around between 1000Bs and 3000Bs depending on the distance.
Venezuela offers a lot of posadas where you can sleep for a reasonable price and with a variety of room types (with air condition, with fan or hammock...). Prices vary between 30.000 Bs and 150.000 Bs depending room choice. Breakfast is almost never included, but is usually offered for an additional 5.000 Bs or 10.000 Bs.
We did not make any previous hotel/posada reservation from Barcelona, we simply arrived and looked for a posada. We should say that we did reserve at posada Don Carlos in Ciudad Bolívar and in posada Shalimar in Río Caribe the day before arrival as we wanted to be sure that we got a bed to sleep in these two wonderful posadas and as these two cities are more visited by the tourists. Even in Ciudad Bolívar we met two Catalan and two Italian tourists that had to sleep in the main square as everywhere was fully booked.
It is always worth trying to bargain over the price, though Venezuela is not like other countries where it is easy to get cheaper price when asking. Here we were not as lucky as elsewhere. Information about lodging:
• Tripvenezuela - Hoteles.com.ve - Turismoparatodos
Gastronomically Venezuela has been a big disappointment, mostly concerning the offer of fresh fruit. Fresh fruit does not seem to be part of the menus in the restaurants and you cannot find it much around, you cannot buy it in as many places as we expected. Given the climate one can be forgiven thinking it logical to find fresh fruit and vegetables but we did ot find it so easy. We did not even see many restaurants or bars where they offer freshly squeezed juice, only bottled varieties! The juices are called "batido". A "milkshake" is not a "milkshake" as we understand them here with milk, but that is natural juice. Also "juice" is the word used.
In addition, we have seen that the Venezuelan eat too much fried food, there is much North American influence in the gastronomy. They eat "empanadas" round the clock accompanied by gaseous drinks, mostly cola. All the main plates are usually accompanied by rice, salad or some other alternative such as yucca or boiled potato. Quality of the meat is good, and quality of fish from the river or from the sea is very good.
Some restaurants where we went were simple, with plastic chairs open air affairs, without glasses. The price of most dishes was cheap, if you want you can eat for between 3 € and 5 € and one normally pays between 5 € and 10 €. At paying you must add sometimes 10% for taxes services.
Bottles of mineral water cost between 1.350 Bs and 3.000 Bs depending where we bought it. For wine lovers we must say that in Venezuela you mostly find Chilean and Argentinian wines and the prices in the restaurants are high. In Venezuela wine is also produced, in the area of Barquisimeto, in the Pomar cellars.
• The legendry of spoken beauty of Venezuelan woman is a total myth! We just saw some beutiful girls, but not more. We would emphasize, the essential difference in the way Venezuelan women dress compared to the majority do in Europe. Venezuelan women adopt a very exuberant style, worn very tight, regardless of whether they are thin or fat, and this exuberance is especially notable in the way they wear tight t-shirts!.
• Ice-cream brands in Germany are called Frigo, in Italy Ola, and curiously in Venezuela they are called Tío Rico (from Spanish "Rich uncle").
• 80% of the cars have tinted windows. We asked why and were told that although the law forbiddes it Venezuelans prefer obscure windows so that from outside one cannot see what is going on inside! Besides that, it offers sun protection.
• Although Venezuela is producer and exporter of sugar, this product is rationated and very often the Venezuelan do not enjoy it as they cannot easily obtain it.
• Everywhere there is a very curious system for making phone calls: you can find a lot of simple plastic tables with 3 or 4 mobile phones and you can call with them and they charge you in Bolivares by the minute. Everone is therefore a potential entrepreneur, even children. If you want to pay less, you must look for a "Centro de conexión" where you can find telephones and internet. Internet costs per hour in Venezuela is between 800 y 1.200 Bs.
• There are many agencies for lotteries. Playing the Lottery must be extremely popular as the number of agencies is not proportional to the size of the population.
• Curiously there are a lot of shops specialising in lingerie from Colombia. The most famous ranges of intimate clothes or maybe those with the higher quality are from Colombia, and the extensive publicity always majors on the Colombian quality brand.
For the most part of Venezuela does not present big regional weather changes, neither in rain nor in temperatura nor humidity. Weather in Venezuela when we visited the country was extremely hot but not around Mérida (1.800 m. height) where at night it was fresher and during the day was warm but nice. Temperatures are even higher than 35 degrees during the day and around 28 degrees at night. It almost did not rain during all the days in Venezuela, only on our trip to Canaima.
During European Summer Time Venezuela is six hours behind (seven from UK time).
Venezuela, Lonely Planet (italian version, March 2004).
When we traveled, Spanish version did not exist.
We bought the ticket to Caracas in Viajes Iberia in Mataró (tel. 0034-93-755 25 80), we paid 850 €. We had to leave on July 28th in the morning, but unfortunately we were unlucky and we had an illegal strike of Iberia and finally we left on Sunday 30 july.
Flight of 50 minutes until Madrid and Madrid to Caracas we took 8 hours and half. Within the airplane they gave two immigration forms that we had to fill in and to give in at the customs. The Maqueitía-Caracas airport is at 27 kms from Caracas. A taxi is around 70.000 or 80.000 Bs, to take a 4x4 taxi 4x4 120.000 Bs. We chose the UCAMC bus, the cheapest option which is the public bus, it costs 10.000 Bs, you can buy the ticket inside the national terminal, (we arrived at the internacional, so we walked from the international to the national terminal). It is well signed. It leaves from the airport until 9pm. The bus takes between 40 minutes and one hour and a half depending on the traffic. It only stops three times: Gato Negro, Plaza Miranda and Parque Central. As our objective is to take the metro, we stopped in the first one, at Gato Negro and from there we took the metro which costs costs 500Bs to the Terminal of Bandera, where the buses that go to the west of Venezuela leave from.
From the Terminal of la Bandera all buses to Coro depart, we bought the ticket at Expresos de Occidente, it cost 35.000 Bs per person. Pay attention when buying you must say Coro City, as there is another Coro - Punto Fijo which is another city further close to the beach. It's a "bus cama". It takes 6 hours to Coro, we were supposed to arrive around 5 am and finally we arrived at 2,30 am, so it took much less as foreseen!
In Coro we slept at Posada Don Antonio (Paseo Talavera, nº 11, zona colonial, Tel. 0058-268 2539578). Double room costs 55.000Bs with bathroom in the room, tv and no breakfast. It's a typical colonial posada with a patio inside, when we were there, they were about to finish a new building in the second floor, this means that if you intend to go there, better ask for the new rooms.
In Coro we had breakfast in one of the bars nearby. We did not spend much time there, so we cannot advise you to go to any precise restaurant.
Coro is the State Capital of Falcón. It is a colonial, pretty and calm City. The historical center is known with this name, therefore if we go to Coro, to specify that we go to "historic centre of Coro". UNESCO declared Coro a world-wide heritage site in 1993.
In Coro the most rewarding thing is to walk around. I must say it is a very small city, two hours there is more than enough. Those who have seen other colonial cities (Antigua, Oaxaca, Mexican Mérida....), will see that Coro offers more of the same but in small dimensions. What is very nice is the cathedral at Plaza Bolívar, it is completely white, inmaculate, built between 1580 and the last century. Two other noteworthy churches are San Francisco in street Zamora, and San Clemente, also in street Zamora.
We recommend taking a day trip to los Médanos de Coro, which is a national park with big sand dunes that appear to be a desert. I have not done it but other tourists told me it is really worth doing. Curiously we did not see any tourists in Coro.
We went to Mérida from Coro. We took a taxi from the city center of Coro to the bus terminal: 4.000 Bs. There are no buses until the afernoon and we decided to take a por puesto (very old) that cost 20.000 Bs per person until Maracaibo. This takes 3 hours, with one stop of more than 30 minutes for refreshments. The same way by bus would have cost 15.000 Bs.
At the bus terminal of Maracaibo we intended to take a "por puesto" but in 6 hours we spent waiting there, none left. The buses only leave at night, we took Expresos de Occidente to Mérida which leaves at 10pm, and costs 30.000Bs and it's also a Bus cama. In Maracaibo you must pay an exit tax of 1.000Bs. It took 8 hours to arrive to Mérida, with only one stop to eat.
We chose Posada Luz Caraballo (Avenida 2 Lora, nº 13-80 in front of Sucre sq, Tel. 0058-274 2525441), where a double room with private bath and tv costs 70.000 Bs. In this case also they had just finished to build a new building and we were lucky to get one room in the new building. We recommend you to ask for the new rooms, as the difference is big. Moreover Mrs. Berta who manages the posada is really kind. The restaurant in the posada is also very convenient.
To have breakfast we recommend the bakery Roma (Street 24, at the entrante of the Teleférico, Tel. 0058-274 529095) with thousands of choices. We went to a wonderful restaurant for dinner: La Abadía (Avenida 3 between streets 17 and 18), moreover it has internet free. La abadía del Ángel, another charming place, also belongs to the same owner. Another restaurant we went is Cheo's (at Plaza de las Heroínas). In Mérida you can find most unusual ice cream shop Coromoto, which curiously has the Guinness record for the number of different flavours of icecreams. They say they have more than 827 different flavours. We can confirm this, moreover over and above the traditional ones they have strange names and flavours like: Spaghetti with Cheese, Viagra, and Smoked Salmon (Avenida 3, nº 28-75, diagonal to the church el Llano, Tel. 0058-274 252 35 25). Opening times 14,30 to 21,45 and Mondays closed.
Mérida is the Capital of the State with the same name. It's a city very open and cosy where all is very calm and. It is not as warm as you find everywhere in Venezuela, being surrounded by mountains
In Mérida we felt good and we must say that we saw many tourists. What is most worth while doing in Mérida is walking around and going to the Plaza Bolívar, Plaza de las Heroínas, to Plaza Milla, and to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral. The Archeological Museum is very recommendable to visit, as well as the Museum of Colonial Art.
The most important touristical thing in Mérida is the teleférico (cable car) that brings people up to the top of Pico Espejo at 4.765 metres. The Teleférico is the longest one in the World and was built in 1.958. It has 4 sections, each one takes around 11 minutes and once you reach each station you must wait for a while to get used to the height and then you can take the next cable car. The Teleférico costs 55.000Bs, children 38.000Bs and seniors 33.000Bs. Each day only 800 people may gio up, so if you intend to go up in one day by the cable car, it is better to make a reservation online and pick it up once there. They open at 7,45 am and close at 2,45 pm (last ride 2 pm). At the top it snowed and it was very cold, so it is better to go with suitable clothes and if you do not have them (like us!) at the entrance of the Teleférico you can rent hats and gloves for 1.000Bs, coats between 3.000 and 4.000Bs.
Another very recommendable thing to do is a day trip to los Páramos. Mérida is surrounded by wonderful mountains (it reminds one Switzerland!). On this day trip we went to the top of Pico del Águila at 4.118 metres, and on the way we visited the church made of little stones by the local artist Juan Félix Sánchez, also the National park of Sierra Nevada and the Mucubají lake, and also we rode horses for 30 minutes, which costs 5.000B (+ 5.000Bs if you want a guide who leads the horse). Also we fished for trout and for that we paid 5.000Bs (if you do not catch anything, you do not pay). Also on this trip you must bring suitable clothes as it is cold in the top of Pico del Águila. The trip is the whole day 9 am to 6 pm. We bought the trip at Gravity Tours (Gustavo Viloria, Calle 24, entre Avenida 7 y 8, Tel. 0058-274 2511279), it costed 35.000Bs per person.
The best trip from Mérida is los Llanos. We did not make it as due to the delayed Iberia flight we had to cancel it as we had 3 days less in Mérida. Gravity Tours are the operators of this trip and it costs around 350.000Bs per person for 5 days and 4 nights. We believe that this trip is really worthwhile. Moreover they also offer other trips with a bit more adventure like parachuting, rafting, climbing, etc.
To arrive there from Mérida there is the option to fly to Caracas and from there another flight to Ciudad Bolívar, but this can cost around 300U$. The bus is the cheapest choice. It takes many hours, but it has been our choice.
The bus terminal in Mérida is far from the city center and to arrive there we paid 5.000Bs for the taxi. We took a bus at Expresos Flamingo to Valencia, leaving at 19,30 and takes 10 hours and a half including a dinner break. We paid 40.000Bs plus 1.000Bs for exit fee. Other companies also go to Valencia: Expresos Los Llanos, Expresos de Mérida. Another posible itinerary would have been Mérida-Barinas-Ciudad Bolívar, but we did not find tickets for this option.
Once in Valencia, the bus left us in the private terminal of Expresos Flamingo which is in front of the main bus terminal of Valencia. A little further (by foot), we found the private bus terminal of Rodovias where we bought the ticket to Ciudad Bolívar (34.000 Bs), leaving at 7,30 in the morning and arriving at 7 pm in the evening. In Ciudad Bolívar we took a taxi to the city center which costed us 6.000 Bs. Day time it costs 5.000 Bs per trip.
Posada Don Carlos (Boyacá St nº 26 with Amor Patrio, behind Governación, Tel. 0058-285 6326017). We made a reservation here from Mérida as Ciudad Bolivar is a popular city we wanted to be sure to get a bed in this cute posada with only 10 rooms (building 4 more). It's a posada that belongs to the German Martin Haars, who has lived in Ciudad Bolívar for many years. It is wonderful as it has colonial style and two inner patios. Moreover they offer dinner service (15.000 Bs or 25.000 Bs if there is meat) and breakfast (5.000 Bs), another option is to cook on your own and use the kitchen for 1.000 Bs. Internet is for free and washing the clothes 500Bs per kilo. A double room with bath and air conditioning costs 50.000 Bs. Also you can chose a cheaper option without aircon but with a fan or just an outside hammock. Another much more expensive option and almost luxury is the newly opened Casa Grande where a double room costs 140.000 Bs if you go directly there, if you try per internet, they told us that the price is almost the double. It has a swmming pool in the terrace with wonderful views of the Orinoco.
To eat you must be aware of the time, as the restaurants close at 7pm, with one exception: Tasca Marisquería la Ballena (street Urica with street Zea, sector Casco Histórico, local 12, Tel. 0058-285 6320231) where they serve big portions for a nice price. We also ate for lunch at market Carioca, which is the most typical market in Ciudad Bolívar, where it is better to go only for lunch as it's far from the centre. There are many restaurants there but we were advised to go to El Rincón de los Papillos, we ate typical fish from the Orinoco: Lau-lau, delicious and also nice price. We believe that in Ciudad Bolívar there are not enough restaurants, and it's possibly a perfect idea for investors.
Ciudad Bolívar is one of the favourite destinations of travellers especially because from this city depart two of the most appreciated trips in Venezuela, the one to Salto del Ángel and the one to the Gran Sabana. For us Ciudad Bolívar was a nice surprise as the city was cute and very charming. Surprisingly as well, because in the travel guide Lonely Planet does not mention that it'is a relevant point to stop at. Ciudad Bolívar is on the Orinoco river and it was the first time we saw this huge river.
Ciudad Bolívar is a colonial city founded in 1764 on the Orinoco and still keeps its fluvial port character and many buildings from the colonial period. The city has a long walkway along the Orinoco and just the other side of the street is full of shops. At the end there is a belvedere: Mirador Angostura which is the narrowest point in the river and where it is nice to sit and drink something fresh and observe how children fish and enjoy themselves. You can also see from there the only bridge that crosses the Orinoco and it's 5 km long. The city has a lot of way up and down, it is very clean and it's very well conserved, mostly everything well restaured and painted in nice colours. The city center is organized around Plaza Bolívar where is also the cathedral. All the city centre is full with beautiful buildings: la Casa Piar, la Casa de los Gobernadores, la Casa Parroquial, la Alcaldía de Heres, la Casa del Congreso de Angostura... Only a couple of kms further following the Orinoco there is the market La Carioca where reside the market itself, there are many fish restaurants. Curiously in Ciudad Bolívar between 7 and 8 in the evening most of the restaurants close, it was not easy for us to find a place to eat. Actually one of the days we did not eat as everywhere was closed.
More information about Ciudad Bolívar in Ciudad Bolívar/Venezuela virtual.
Salto del Ángel. The typical trip that leaves from Ciudad Bolívar is the one to the Salto del Ángel. To do it there are many different possibilities and we bought the cheapest one with Adrenaline Expeditions (ask for Luís Guillermo; corner street Dalla Costa with the Boulevard, Tel. 0058-285 6324804). In Adrenaline also can keep the backpacks and acts as a tourist information centre for the city. We paid 650.000 Bs per person for the three days and two nights trip in a hammock leaving from the La Paragua airport which is 3 hours from Ciudad Bolívar with everything included. The flight from La Paragua to Canaima lasts only 30 minutes and it is in a small plane for only 12 people (on the way back it was even a smaller plane for 6 people!). Canaima is the ensemble of posadas and a little airport, nothing else. There is a small beach if you want to rest.
Arriving to the National Park of Canaima you must pay an entrance fee of 8.000 Bs (3.000 Bs if you are from Venezuela). Once there you are given the lunch and afterwards you take a little boat to see the 5 falls, to the same lake that we crossed. Once in the other side of the lake, you walk to the Sapo which is another fall, where you can walk behind the water fall and this makes this experience unique, but be aware because the water falls with such a force that you must take the ropes to avoid falling and as well just go there with a bathing suit and with your cameras very well protected in plastic bags. I think it's better you take swimming goggles as the weather and spray is very very heavy and it hurts the eyes, even if you wear contact lenses it's dangerous as then you also risk losing them. Afterwards you walk one hour and a half and two more hours in a little boat through the tepuis (high mountains with flat top and with scarped walls) to the camp. The two camps where we stayed were really simple: no electricity. Food was just ok, but at night, as we slept in hammocks and during the evening rains a lot, it was really cold. We were given a blanket but it was not enough. That's why I advise taking a jacket or similar.
The day after very early you go again with the little boat for two more hours to another camp at the Salto del Ángel (Angel Falls) (you can see it even from the camp). Then you walk/climb the mountain for one hour and you arrive to the impressive Salto del Ángel. It's 979 meters height and really beautiful. We were lucky as that day we had no clouds and we could see it from the top to the river downstairs. This is really rarely as often there are clouds. Once there there is a belvedere, and further 10 minutes walking there is a natural swimming pool at the feed of the Salto, and it's real nice and refreshing, just be aware of the stream. Water is cold and feels great after walking and climbing for more than one hour. We slept in the camp down to the Salto and it's as well really simple. The third day you go again 4 hours in the boat to Canaima and you just wait your turn to take your flight to La Paragua or Ciudad Bolívar. The airport La Paragua should not be called airport, it's just a sand track where planes land, nothing else.
A lot of the posada owners from Ciudad Bolívar, for instance Martin from Posada Don Carlos, also sell this trip but leaving from the airport Ciudad Bolívar and spending the first night at one of the posadas in Canaima and the second night in a hammock. Price 710.000 Bs. We believe is not worth to leave from La Paragua to save a couple of bolívares, you spend too much time that you lose afterwards. In Adrenaline also offer this trip from Ciudad Bolívar. Another option to see Salto del Ángel is watching it from a plane, only one day. It's the most expensive option of all and could cost around 300 €. We think this trip can also be made on your own, without agency, but we do not think you can get better prices for it as the agencies have already dealt with the posadas, with the camps and with the boat owners the prices, and here you must count the time you loose trying to organise times and prices.
Gran Sabana. Another interesting trip rom Ciudad Bolívar and that Adrenaline organizes and operates is the one to the Gran Sabana, which is one of the most fascinating and unusual regions that exist. The most important thing there are the tepuis, big flat mountains. Roraima is the most well known one and a 6 days and 5 nights trip costs 750.000Bs.
Río Caura. Another different and fantastic option is to go up the Caura river, organized and operated by Posada Don Carlos. It costs 270€ everything included. You spent 4 nights in hammock and make 120 kms river up to the indigenous communities, walking through the rain, birdwatching, and arriving to the waterfalls Pará.
In Ciudad Bolívar we took a taxi to the bus terminal, for 5.000 Bs. There we took the first bus from Los Nuevos Horizontes that left for San Félix. They are leaving very often, every 20 minutes, we paid 4.600 Bs for one tour and thrirty minutes drive time. Additional 500 Bs for leaving fee. The ticket is not bought in an office but directly on the bus, and it is a bus just in front of the "arepera y ponchera" and of Yuruvani Travel.
In San Félix the buses to Tucupita leave at 7,30 or at 2pm, they cost 8.100Bs and they take 5 hours. We decided to catch a "por puesto" for 20.000 Bs to Tucupita. Just leaving San Félix, we inmeditely crossed the Orinoco by ferry, with the car "por puesto" included and it takes around 15 minutes. Around 2 more hours we arrived to the bus terminal in Tucupita, and there we took a taxi to the centre paying 4.000 Bs.
In the city centre of Tucupita there are no nice hotels that we could recommend. After checking some of them, we stayed at Hotel Amacuro (23 Bolívar St, Tel. 0058-287 7210404) which is the most expensive of all the posadas/hotels we stayed in and the worst one. The hotel is about to fall and its owner, a nice Lebanese woman, seems to believe that it's a 4 star hotel. In fact, we checked other 2 options but they were even worse. For a double room with air condition, bad smell and very noisy we paid 66.000Bs without breakfast. Moreover we had an electricity cut, which seems to happen often. The best option to sleep in/around Tucupita is out of the centre, at the Hotel Saxxi (Paloma industrial area, carretera nacional Tucupita, Tel. 0058-287 7211733) where the double room costs 60.000 Bs. This hotel also belongs to the Greek also owner of the travel agency and camp Mis Palafitos with whom we went to the Orinoco Delta.
For lunch and dinner we ate several times in the same restaurantes we liked the quality and the price: Mi Tasca (53 Dalla Cuesta St), you can find it just straight ahead of the plaza Bolívar. Big portions, delicious and at a reasonable price.
Tucupita Tucupita is the capital of the state of Delta Amacuro, you find there a real incredible heat and it's not an attractive city. It has nothing to see and nothing special. When it gets dark in the evening, there is nobody in the street, absolutely nobody.
Delta del Orinoco. It's possible to visit it in only one day, but you must organize it with a little group or it's not worthwhile moneywise. We decided to buy the trip to Orinoco Delta at Mis Palafitos (Centro Comercial Delta Center, office nº 16, in front of plaza Bolívar, Tel. 0058-287 7211733). One day and one night costed 110 US$ per person, two days and one night cost 170 US$, 3 days and 2 nights 210 US$. After September 2006 this agency will open a second camp at Orinoco Delta.
The trip is to take a boat until the camp, it is longer than two hours up the river, but in a very modern boat, pretty confortable. The camps are small huts on the river with private bath and a common eating room, everything surrounded by wild animals (tucans, monkeys, parrots, etc). From there we left by boat until the "real" rainforest and we walked for a while around with the explanations of the guide. At the camp they gave us rain boats, which are real convenient as the rainforest is full of pools. After we went by boat to a native village to see how they live and to buy some hand made souvenirs to help them. We enjoyed the sunset from the boat in the river, really nice. Finally after dinner there is another boat trip to see the animals nightlife. Though in the paper we were given when buying the whole trip, it said "everything included", the boat trip was strangely not included and we paid 10U$. So it's worth to really check it when contracting the trip in Tucupita. I consider that one day and one night is more than enough, but basically because the trip is very similar to the one we made at the rainforest at Amazonas.
Coming from Tucupita, we first went to Maturín, took a "por puesto" that cost 21.000Bs and took 3 hours to drive 200 km. Buses of Expresos la Guayana cost 8.000Bs and leave at 11,30 or at 3pm, buses of Expresos del Mar leave at 6pm and cost 15.000 Bs, Expresos los Llanos at 5pm and cost 15.100 Bs.
Once in Maturín we took another "por puesto" until Carúpano and we paid 20.000Bs for the 180 km distance, which we made in arund 3 hours, as it's only a mountain road and it rained the whole time. We did not take a bus because we only saw one company operating this way and it left only at 1,30pm and costed 15.000Bs. Once at the bus terminal in Carúpano, we walked some streets until Avenida Juncal corner street Quebrada Onda where the buses to Río Caribe leave from, it costs 1.500Bs, and takes 20 minutes to reach the centre of Río Caribe, around 25 km.
In Río Caribe we chose a wonderful posada that belongs to another German owner: Lothar Berg. The Posada Shalimar (54 Av Bermúdez, Tel. 0058-294 6461135) was opened on Christmas Day 2005, It has Indian and Arabian inspirations. A double room with bath, hot water and air condition (a modern and silent one!) 80.000 Bs. Moreover the posada offers breakfasts at 9.000 Bs and has a recommendable restaurant. The best thing in the posada is the wonderful swimming pool (not really big) and it's grateful as Río Caribe is very hot.
To eat we went several times to the same restaurant: Mi Cocina (Juncal St, Tel. 0058-294 8083088). It was not easy to find it as it's hidden like a garage door. They offer big portions and for me it's compulsory to order the delicious "Casuela de marisco", which could be enough for two people. Really recommendable.
Río Caribe. This village made us feel good and confortable, probably due to its beauty and to the nice posada we found and the delicious restaurant (and even very cheap). It is the capital of the province Arismendi in the Sucre state. All this is very well known as a holiday destination specially for Venezuelan.
Río Caribe by itself is a cute village but has not much to offer, it's nice and simple but small. In the morning is worth to walk around the small fishing harbour where there is a fish market too. From there boats leave to the different beaches and the price is agreed before leaving, for a return trip, and it's usually around 40.000 or 50.000Bs retour, taking into account that the first price is much higher, I think it's better to bargain for a while.
Some kilometers further from Río Caribe there is Hacienda Bukare (Vía Playa Medina, Chacarual, Municipio Arismendi, Tel. 0058-5112739). To arrive there we walked to the oil station, what Venezuelan call "bomba" of the village and from there leave the buses to the Hacienda direction, it costs 1.500Bs. Hacienda Bukare produces cacao and makes chocolate, the guided visit (including chocolate tasting) of 45 minutes costs 15.000Bs. The Hacienda has also a simple posada around a small swimming pool where the double room costs 100.000Bs and dinner 40.000Bs.
The most famous beach of the state Sucre and probably the most famous at continental Venezuela is Playa Medina. To arrive there you can take a small boat from the fishing port or you take a "por puesto" that can cost 30.000Bs or more. The beach is nice, has some palm trees on the beach and the grass arrives to the sand, but the water colour is not transparent as we could imagine from the Caribbbean. There is one posada on the beach that costs 50€ per person and is not a really nice one. There are a lot places cooking fresh fish and they bring it to your place on the beach, it costs between 10.000 and 30.000Bs depending on how big is the fish. To rent easy chairs costs 5.000Bs and renting an umbrella 10.000Bs. It's very typical from the area to drink (and sell) a home made punch. Going to this beach, at the small village of San Francisco de Chacaracual you can buy some, as the inhabitants do produce and sell it in many different flavours.
Another interesting beach is Playa Pui-Puy. We were told Playa Medina was more beautiful and the security level higher in Pui-Puy was not to trust (it's actually a longer beach, so this means there are more spaces and more risks). A couple of trips from Río Caribe could be to visit the buffalos Hacienda Hato Río de Agua and Hacienda Aguasana with termal waters. We did not go there. From Río Caribe also you can visit the beaches of San Juan de las Galdonas, others tourists told us that it was worth to arrive there and spent a couple of nights at the posada Las 3 Carabelas that belongs to a Spaniard and it's nice.
In plaza Miranda of Río Caribe we took a "por puesto" until Carúpano that costed 3.000Bs because it was Sunday (2.500Bs between the week) and in 20 minutes we arrived to the bus terminal of Carúpano. Once there withn the buses of Responsable de Venezuela we went to Cumaná and we paid 10.000Bs for the two hours trip. The driver left us in the road that goes to Mochima (after leaving Cumaná) paying additional 5.000Bs, and there we took a minibus until the village, it only takes 10 minutes, we paid 1.750Bs.
In Mochima we slept at Posada Girasol (at the end of the main street, Tel. 0058-293 4160535). The posada belongs to the Swiss Brigitte de Vera. There are 3 small rooms with cable tv and hot water, decorated with relief painting of sunflowers on the walls and ceiling. When we were there she was building two additional rooms with terrace in the upper floor. We looked for other options, but this one is really the best.
We recommend the restaurant Bohios de Yeya, but not especially for the good, but basically because the table is at the end of a pasarle on the water and it's very special to have dinner below the sky full of stars. Another restaurant we went also at the sea (not on the sea) is Puerto viejo (main street).
Mochima is a small village that actually has only two streets, that have no name, one is called "the main one" and the other "the other". Curious, isn't it? Mochima is also the main village where the trips to the Mochima Nacional Park leave, from this trip also leave from the village Santa Fe which is bigger and with more people, but Lothar Berg from the posada Shalimar in Río Caribe told us not to go to Santa Fe as lastly there have been lots of robberies. One "curiosity" of Mochima is that there are several electricity cuts and it's better to take it easy as it can take longer than two hours. In Mochima there is no internet, no where. Emails must be consulted in Cumaná.
Mochima has nothing to offer as it's a "mini village". What you must do from there is the day trip to the Mochima National Park. We took the trip with Roger Tours (he is the husband of the posadera Brigitte) and we paid 25.000 Bs each for the whole day trip. In the boat we were only 7 tourists and we stopped in different islands of the national park, and to have lunch at Santa Fe, in the restaurant Club Náutico de Santa Fe. We were lucky to see some dolphins while in the boat. It's a recommendable trip, but beside this there is nothing else to do in Mochima.
We took a bus from Mochima to Cumaná. The small bus from Mochima leave from the main plaza it seems it has no name, but it's easy to find, it costs 1.750 Bs and taks around one hour. It leaves us in a non identified place where everyone gets out, and from there we took a taxi that costed 5.000 Bs until posada Bubulina's, in the centre.
The best option in Cumaná is Posada Bubulina's (corner Santa Inés St / Alacrán St, Historical Center, Tel. 0058-293 4314025). It's a posada that offers 16 very clean rooms, with air condition and tv, and offers as well a restaurant. We paid 70.000Bs for the double room. The posada belongs to a Hungarian-Venezuelan woman: Rosa Maróthy who is as well the chairman of the tourism comission of the Sucre state. Another good option would be Posada San Francisco (16 Sucre St, Tel. 0058-293 4313926).
To eat we went to two different places and both very recommendable: Sport Restaurant (Sucre St, close to the cinema Pichincha) which is a very popular place where you can eat big portion very cheap. Also at the French restaurant Les Jardins de Sucre (27 Sucre St) where we spent a delicious night eating French cuisine. Prices of course much more expensive than the average of Venezuelan restaurants.
Cumaná is the capital of the Sucre state and it was the first city founded in continental land by the Spaniards in 1521. Cumaná conserves historical colonial buildings and it's a nice city wo walk around. Interesting is the San Antonio de la Eminencia castle, it's free to enter, but you must wait for the guides to open the door, and as they are volunteers, they arrive whenever they want. Curiously this citadel is inland, I mean not at the sea as it's usually, and they told us that it was built in 1659, but several earthquakes made that earth built spaces and now it's not anymore at the sea. The fort is coral stone and has a star form. In Cumaná it's very nice the churh of Santa Inés from 1929, although the buildings around are from XVI century. The cathedral of Cumaná also is of recent construction. It is worth to visit the birth house of the poet Andrés Eloy Blanco, entrance free, and as well the museum Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho, also free and where we found information about the War of Independance of General Sucre when they liberated Perú and Bolivia.
More information about Cumaná and Sucre in: Sucre/Venezuela Virtual
In Cumaná we took a taxi until the bus terminal (5.000Bs) and there we took a night bus of Rodovias to Caracas. We paid 37.500 Bs for the night bus plus 200Bs for the exit fee. The bus leaves at 22,30 and arrives to Caracas at 6 am. We arrived at the private bus terminal of Rodovias which is close to the metro stop of Colegio de Ingenieros, but taking into account the time we had, we decided not to risk and to take a taxi that costs 10.000 Bs until the aerobus bus stop which is in 17 Av. Sucre, between México and Lacone, at Parque Central. There we paid 8.000 Bs for the ticket to the airport. The buses leave from 5am each 30 minutes. In 45 minutes we arrived to the airport of Maiquetía.
The Transaven flight to los Roques leaves at 10:30 and takes 35 minutes to arrive to the island of Gran Roque. In Roques there are no cars, and we walked to the posada Karlin. Each kilo over 10 kg, you must pay and additional 1 US$. Only on the way to Roques, not flying back. We understand it's a way to earn Money with tourists.
We tried to buy the tickets to Roques per internet from Barcelona but it seemed to be imposible. Once in Venezuela, we tried to buy it in different travel agencies, but all said Roques was full and that we would find nothing. But in Ciudad Bolívar José Carlos Cuesta (Tel. 0058-414 8523209) that works at Bernal Tours at the airport office of Ciudad Bolívar, told us he would find something. He found it through his friend Yoni Velis (Tel. 0058-414 3305301) who is an independent tour operator at the Maiquetía-Caracas airport. Yoni sold us a package of flight and posada (sleep, breakfast and dinner included) for 410 € per person, 5 days-4 nights. Yoni, moreover can buy the tickets that you can ask per email or phone. We recommend to previously buy the ticket by Internet or though Yoni. Usually it costs 170 US$ or 180 US$.
As we bought a package, the posada was not chosen by us and we slept, had breakfast and had dinners there: Posada Karlin (tel. 0058-237 221 14 43). The other two posadas that we visited and I can say that are really beautiful and are really in front of beach are Posada La Gaviota (tel. 0058-414 32 42092) and Macanao Lodge. There are really few posadas which are really in front of the beach, most of the posadas are one or two street away from the beach, but not on the beach. The pictures of the posadas lie, because they are only close to the beach but not on the front.
Roques are a very expensive trip, it costs between 60 and 200 € per person and night. Only you pay 50 € / 60 € per person and night if the posada is more simple and belongs to people from los Roques. Most of the posadas belong to Italians that 15 years ago discovered these wonderful islands. I repeat, most of the posadas are not in front of the beach, but one or two streets away (Gran Roque has 3 main streets). Prices are usually to sleep, for breakfast and dinner. Sometimes do include the boat trips to the other islands. In the simple posadas, these trips are not included. We believe that through Internet you can get better prices, directly with the posadas, and asking them to include the boat trips and the meals. Another great option is to sleep on the yachts. The big advantage is the independence that you have (to visit the islands you want, everything per desire, to sleep watching the Stara, to stop the yacht in the middle of a wonderful bay...), moreover if you remember the dependence from the boats at Los Roques. These services of the yacht can be done by Alfons Millaret (Tel. 0058-414 1869748) who is doing a world tour and was spending some months in Roques. Also Jordi Flo (Tel. 0058- 414 394 2320), another Catalan who lives there and makes these kind of. Also there is the possibility to save the flight at the yacht of Jordi or Alfonso, they pick you up at Cumaná or at isla Margarita and they bring you back to La Guaira (the port of Caracas). Sleep, eating and trips could cost around 150 US$ per person and day.
A nice place to drink something or eat in front of the beach is Aquarena (Tel. 0058-414 1311282). Gran Roque has only a bakery and it's really delicious, and good prices (moreover comparing it with the prices in Roques), it's called Bella Mar and it's in the middle street, and for lunch they make an abundant lunch for 8.000 Bs.
Los Roques is an archipelago of paradise islands such as you can imagine with blue transparent waters and with the sand beaches of a Caribbean island. The archipelago is formed by several small islands mostly inhabited, and the biggest one is: Gran Roque. Los Roques is at 166kms from the continental coast.
Upon arrival at Gran Roque, at the airport, you must pay a Los Roques National Park fee of 33.600 Bs. High season is in August, Christmas and Easter. If possible better avoid these days because Roques is very expensive and in high season even more.
We have seen other paradise islands in the World and we must say that in Roques there is a big inconvenience: you always must depend on the boats to do the trips, and you must preview everything: umbrellas, food, beverages..., you can not easily go to the hotel. There are no beaches in Gran Roque. Moreover in Gran Roque, the land is very dry and there is nothing but posadas, nothing to visit. In los Roques there is only one bank and it does not change euros, only dollars, and a minimum of 200US$, beside this they charge 5% of commission and the change is not good: 2.144Bs per dollar. The opening times are from 8 to 12 and from 14 to 17 hours. Also there is only one Internet centre which is just in front of the posada Karlin, it costs 20.000 Bs per hour (20 times more that in continental Venezuela!). There is another place for Internet: the InfoCentro, just in front of the bakery Bella Mar, only open from 12 to 14 and from 17 to 19 hours. The first 30 minutes are free, but it's very slow.
In continental Venezuela we have seen some electricity cuts, in Gran Roque it was even worse and sometimes they know in advance that it will happen, and sometimes they even do not know about it. Rotatorily and by zones, the electricity is cut between 19 and 23,30, staying really dark. The posadas on the higher level have their own generator, that makes you privileged in the dark. These cuts are due to the infrastructure that cannot support the big request of the tourists.
In the main island, in Gran Roque, there is not much to see, nothing. We only recommend to go to the lighthouse to see the views from the village from the top. At the Gran Roque it is not recomendable to stay at the beach, in fact nobody stays there, everybody leaves the island in the morning with the boat trips to go to the neighbouring islands. The trips cost between 15.000 Bs and 60.000 Bs depending on which island we go to. They are all the same beautiful, with no big differences, the most far away is around one hour and a half, the closest one only 20 minutes. When you go to close islands, the rental of umbrellas and diving ítems is not included. To rent umbrellas, diving tube and glasses to do some snorkelling costs 25.000 Bs. Everything can be rented at Oscar's Shop, which is a small shop at the beginning of the village. Another good option is go fishing, we recommend to do it with José Mata Zapatón (you can call him to 0058-237 2211165 or through the posada Karlin). For diving there are two options in Gran Roque: ADC or Arrecife Diver's.
More information about Los Roques in: Los Roques-Venezuelatuya.
We already explained in the Coro trip how to arrive from airport of Maiquetía to the centre of Caracas. We did not preview to spend time there, but Iberia offered us the transfers from the aiport.
Thanks to Iberia we slept at Gran Meliá Caracas, where we also enjoyed all meals.
Caracas. On our itinerary we should not have actually stayed in Caracas but because of Iberia overbooking of our flight we were able to stay one night and one morning there. The capital of Venezuela did not seem to us to be a nice city and a bit unsafe, but of course these are sensations from only spending there some hours, and it's not fair to generalize. A lot of Venezuelans we met they told us not to stay in Caracas for security reasons.
We almost had no time to see Caracas and we walked around to have an idea how it looks. We know that there is a colonial part and some churches that are worth visiting, but we did not see them. So we cannot speak much about Caracas.
To go to the aiport of Maiquetía-Caracas we went with the transfer offered by Iberia. There you must pay the aiport exit tax of 33.600 Bs and also 84.000 Bs of airport tax. Luckily if you fly with Iberia these two taxes are included within the price we paid. The flight Caracas-Madrid 8,5 hours and Madrid-Barcelona of 50 minutes.